A West African court has found Niger’s government guilty of failing to protect a woman from slavery in a landmark case for the region.The court found in favour of Hadijatou Mani, who says she was sold aged 12 and made to work for 10 years.
A judge ordered the government – which says it has done all it can to eradicate slavery – to pay Ms Mani 10m CFA francs (£12,430; $19,750).Despite being outlawed, slavery also persists in other West African states.
Ms Mani was quoted as telling reporters in court that she was “very happy” with the decision.”We are law-abiding and will respect this decision,” Mossi Boubacar, a lawyer for Niger’s government, told Reuters news agency.
BBC West Africa correspondent Will Ross says the ruling is embarrassing for the government of Niger and sends a strong message that it needs to do more to implement the law and end slavery.It could also have huge consequences for thousands of other people who have been kept in conditions of slavery across the region, he says.
Ms Mani, now 24, says she was sold to a man called Souleymane Naroua when she was 12. The price was the equivalent of about $500 (£315).She says she was forced to carry out domestic and agricultural work for the next 10 years.Ms Mani says she was raped at the age of 13 and forced to bear the man’s children.
“I was beaten so many times I would run to my family,” she told the BBC’s World Today programme. “Then after a day or two I would be brought back.”At the time I didn’t know what to do but since I learned that slavery has been abolished I told myself that I will no longer be a slave.”
In 2005, her master freed her and gave her a “liberation certificate”, reports Anti-Slavery International, which helped her bring the case.But when she left him and tried to marry another man, her “master” said they were married.
A local court found in favour of Ms Mani and she went ahead with her new wedding.But this was then overturned on appeal and she was sentenced to six months in prison for bigamy.She took her case to the Court of Justice of the West African regional body Ecowas earlier this year.
Ms Mani accused the government of Niger of failing to protect her from slavery, which was criminalised five years ago.
A local organisation fighting to end the practice says there are more than 40,000 slaves in Niger.But the government has said such figures are exaggerated.
SOURCED FROM BBC
Filed under: AFRICAN CRIME AND JUSTICE, AFRICAN NEWS, AFRICAN POLITICS | Tagged: HADJIJATOU MANI, NIGER REPUBLIC, SLAVERY IN AFRICA, WEST AFRICAN NEWS | Leave a Comment »